The Poet’s Legacy

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Poets-legacyEvery family has at least one poet. My great-grandmother, Inez Lea Hannah, was our family’s poet. Between the ages of 12 and 13, she began writing poetry focused on the rural landscapes of the Ozarks. By the time she was eighteen, her poems were being picked up by the local papers. Unfortunately, very few of her writings remain. Mostly stuffed into drawers, old shoeboxes and now fragile books through the years, I still managed to slowly piece together a small collection of her work. This is the part of her legacy I know she would want our family to enjoy, and enjoy I do. My great-grandmother was great admirer of Robert Frost, and I often imagine her as a young girl longing to write in his rural, New England voice, though her tradition was distinctly rural, Midwestern. A book of Frost’s poetry sat next to her Bible on the old nightstand her entire life. I have often wondered what happened to those two treasured books when she was finally moved into the nursing home. Outliving most of her children, my great-grandmother not only had great genes, but was more perceptive than most; I could see it in her piercing blue eyes every time I lied to her about walking along the railroad tracks in town. She had her own spies during our summers at the farm. She also could sense controversy in the family long before it erupted, yet she often remained hesitant to interfere in the business of others (though I do think she secretly enjoyed, a little too much, her neighbor’s daily rounds of gossip).

There are so many wonderful memories of her I carry forward as a sustaining force in my life. She was the best cinnamon toast maker in the family; she never flinched when I had to give her a B12 injection, and she could be a ferocious worrier (a habit she mysteriously bequeathed to me). I not only keep her poems safely tucked away for the next generation to enjoy, but wear her simple gold wedding band on my hand as a daily reminder of her story, which has now become her legacy, and a part of mine. May she live on, and on, and on…

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